Is Fair Trade really that important?

October 10
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I recently helped host The Body Shop’s 30th Anniversary here in The Body Shop where they also launched their new Smoky Rose Musk fragrance. I also had the pleasure to talk to Christina Archer, the Senior Buyer for Community Fair Trade ingredients at The Body Shop International. I had the chance to speak to her about why Community Fair trade is important, why it’s important to the brand, and what a typical Senior Buyer’s day looks like! Check out the below video to learn more.


Why is Community Fair Trade important?

Ensuring a product is fairly traded is crucial as it tells us that it has been made in a way that respects the environment, provides a guarantee that the men and women involved in making that product have been paid a fair price, and it ensures traceability (knowing exactly where it has come from in the world).

Why is it important to The Body Shop?

The Body Shop was founded over 35 years ago by a visionary and inspirational woman Anita Roddick, who from the start was passionate about ‘Business as Unusual’, and making sure that ethics were at the heart of the company.  We still operate with five core values guiding our work and forming the foundations of our Brand – Activate Self Esteem, Protect the Planet, Against Animal Testing, Defend Human Rights, and of course Support Community Fair Trade.

When Anita started our Community Fair Trade programme 26 years ago, she wanted make sure we used the power of our business to bring about positive benefits for producers, artisans and farmers in more marginalised coountries through trade, rather than just aid.  We still source our key accessories and ingredients through this programme, buying 18 of our core ingredients and many of our accessories directly from groups all over the world.  This direct trading relationship is important to us not only because our customers demand and expect it of us, as a leading ethical cosmetics brand, but also because it ensures we get extremely high quality ingredients, very often harvested and made by hand.  It also means we have a direct link to the individual farmers and artisans, and can together with them work out what is a fair price to pay for their produce, what benefits the trade is bringing to them and their family, and increase the links between our customers and these producers in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

We were the first cosmetics company to start such a direct sourcing  fair trade programme, and as far as we know we still have the biggest and most comprehensive programme. Today, over 90% of all products are made using Community Fair Trade ingredients. We also are always looking out for ways to push the boundaries and keep improving and expanding our reach – we are the first company to use a fairly traded organic sugar cane essence as the base for all our fragrances, including the fabulous new White Must Smoky Rose, an ingredient we are buying from a cooperative in the Andean mountains of Ecuador in South America.

How are we – the consumers – helping?

Consumers are and can help just by starting to ask and think about where things they are buying come from.  By positively choosing a product that has been traded fairly, even your trip to the supermarket can be having a huge impact on families thousands of miles away – as it will be ensuring they are paid a fair price for the work they have put in to making what you are consuming.

What is a typical day for you at work?

I have two types of day – office day and field day.

In the office I juggle long distance calls to my suppliers in time zones 6 hours away, meeting with our PR and Communications teams on how we can get the stories of how we source our ingredients and what impact our trade is having, talking with the amazing team in our Reasearch and Development teams on how much of our Community Fair Trade ingredients they can include in the latest formulations they are working on, and … generally catching up with emails !

When I am travelling to visit my suppliers I usually wake up with the dawn to make sure I catch the farmers before they go to their far away fields, walking up and down mountain paths with them to visit their farms and learn about how they are harvesting and making the product we make, and ulitmately makign sure we are still paying a fair price.  Phew !